During lunch I continued reading a manuscript on how to be a “natural” athlete written by a tennis coach I know and hit with. Frank Adams taught his game for 50 years, and after 30 of them devised a simpler way to play well. He suggests that a lot of the coaching advice is hampering—it forces the player to learn and use new strokes and moves that are very awkward and contrary to what our body wants to do automatically.

For example, we don’t even think about how to swing our arms when we walk down the street. If someone throws us a tennis ball or a set of keys, we easily judge where and when to place our hand to make the catch. All automatic and very natural.

Add a racket to the game, and we are now told to make all kinds of adjustments that are very unnatural: raise the racket behind you, turn your body, rotate your feet, eye on the ball, bend your knees, left hand in front, nice level swing, follow through…all way too complicated to remember and carry out in milliseconds. And we mess up way too often.

The goal is to be so relaxed and organic that you hit the ball with the racket as easily and mindlessly as you caught the ball with your hand—and all those coaches may be teaching a method that gets in the way of superior playing. Even the top players are violating their automatic rhythms, and that is why so many are injured and so many depend on extraordinary power and speedy running to return shots at all and as winners. Quite a confrontation with what is generally the norm.

Still, I think it is okay to learn what everyone else does—as I did with my conventional tennis lessons over a year—and then refine the skill with improvements related more to relaxation and non-thinking, fewer moves and more automatic responses. Just a minority opinion for you to consider. It has worked for me enormously on tennis courts. I will learn the basic rules on the squash court and see if I can integrate Frank’s unique approach into that environment as well.